Reader wants statue moved out of respect

Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2021

On Christmas Eve in 1866, a man was lynched in Danville, Kentucky.

Al. McRobards was given legal permission to carry a weapon to protect himself against the same man who instigated the evening’s attack — a police officer. Neither of their families had a good Christmas that year.

The headline uses the adjective “vicious” to describe the victim. He is also repetitively referred to as “Freeman” — unable to shake his racial history, less than two years after the Civil War.

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I stumbled across this easily searchable story a few years ago while reading old town records. I like to read old-time stories that are transcribed and available online. I read the story, told some friends about it, and brought it to mind every once in a while, usually at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings – internally nodding to the man whose story I won’t forget.

This past summer I visited The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. When I didn’t see Boyle County, Kentucky displayed among the 800 six-foot monuments to lynchings in America, I wasn’t exactly surprised. There are plenty of counties in America whose monuments don’t exist because of racially sterilized history.

Although I wasn’t surprised to find Boyle County absent from the National Memorial, I was surprised to read Joni House, a local historian, claim that moving the Confederate Monument from the Presbyterian Church of Danville’s property is an act of sterilizing history. History has already been sterilized. Moving the statue, and remembering Al. McRobards (or McRoberts), the man hanged after midnight by city officials in Danville, is an act of reclamation. Being accurate and fair is not sterilization.

When I first noticed the Confederate Monument at the Presbyterian Church of Danville under the tarpaulin, I pulled over to have a look. This is the site, I believe, of the lynching described in the Louisville Journal on December 27, 1866. I base this on the description of the events and the Elm tree, which can live 300 years. There isn’t much I know about the placement of Confederate Captain Robert E. Logan’s statue, just what was in this paper on October 21, but I doubt it’s a coincidence being placed in this location 44 years after the lynching incident.

The cemetery and grounds at the Presbyterian Church are a beautiful and peaceful place enjoyed by so many community members: Centre students sit on its grasses; families walk its manicured rows; children play on its playground. The ideals represented by Captain Logan’s statue do not represent those of Danville’s current community, so moving it within the same community, to a more fitting location is not sterilization — it’s respect.

Megan Berketis